Friday, May 27, 2016

Polling The Real Hispanics

Howard Fineman did an interview with Peter Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign minion, and he’s very sure that when the real Hispanics vote, they’ll go for his guy.

The conventional view, espoused by the Bush family and its retainer Karl Rove, is that a GOP presidential candidate needs 40 percent of the nationwide Hispanic vote to win. Trump is at roughly 20 percent.

“The national polls are distorted,” Manafort said. “To get a national sample they rely too much on Hispanics from New York and California, which is where large populations are, but also where most of the radical Hispanics are.”

“But if you look at Hispanics in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and even Florida, you see a different picture. We’re going to target Hispanic voters in those and other swing states.”


So his candidate doesn’t need 40 percent of Latino voters nationwide. “If we get into the high 20s in those states with Hispanics, we will win them, and in Florida we can do even better if we do what we need to do in the Cuban community.”

His theory seems to be that since they all look alike and sound alike, they’ll all vote alike.  Except for those radicals.

I’m With Her, Two

The only downside of Hillary Clinton — or Bernie Sanders, for that matter — picking Elizabeth Warren as the vice presidential nominee on the Democratic ticket is that Massachusetts has a Republican governor and he would get to pick her replacement, which means the Senate would add another Republican, and the Democrats really need to take back the Senate.

Other than that, I can’t see a downside.  Can you?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Newtie and the Blowhard

Via Taegan Goddard:

Newt Gingrich “has, in effect, launched his own campaign” to become Donald Trump’s running mate, National Review reports.

Said Trump super PAC operative Ed Rollins: “I think Newt is lobbying to be the vice president, and I think their people are paying a lot of attention to him.”

He added: “It’d be a ticket with six former wives, kind of like a Henry VIII thing. They certainly understand women.”

The fates would never be so gracious as to hand us this gift, would they?


Donald Trump went for the trifecta at a rally in New Mexico on Tuesday.

During a 65-minute speech in Albuquerque last night, Donald Trump laced into New Mexico Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. He blamed her for the state’s economic problems, for the growing number of food stamp recipients and for not doing more to reject Syrian refugees. The billionaire even mused about moving to the state to run for governor himself.

“She’s got to do a better job,” Trump told thousands of supporters, per Jenna Johnson. “She’s not doing the job. We’ve got to get her moving. Come on: Let’s go, governor.”

So in one long gasping, shuddering breath, he attacked a woman who’s a Latina — the first (and only) Latina governor in the state and the country — and a fellow Republican.

I’m pretty sure that if Gov. Martinez was gay or had a disability he’d have worked that into the rant, too.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


This morning, more out of habit than anything else, I reached for the remote to check on what’s been happening overnight and got the cable TV equivalent of the Blue Screen of Death: NO SIGNAL.

I called Comcast and found out through their robot that “we are experiencing outages in your area.”  They expect to be back up by 6:00 a.m.

I felt a small wave of relief.  I don’t have to watch TV.  I can turn on the radio and listen to the BBC World Service on WLRN-FM, which they run every night.  And I don’t have to hear about the election this morning.

I am aware that some of you may not want to read about the shitshower that is going to be coming for the next six months or so.  There are those who don’t want to hear about Donald Trump and the “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet” aspect of this presidential election.  But I also think that I have — if not a duty then an obligation — to write about what could be a very important election.  Perhaps the most important one since I started paying attention to outcomes in 1968.

I know that it’s a truism that every election is important, and every candidate tells us that the one they’re in is the Most Important Election Ever (of course they’d say that; otherwise we wouldn’t pay attention to them).  But this one truly does feel as if there is much more at stake than just who wins.

I personally feel threatened by the prospect of Donald Trump as president.  Anyone who will go to the lengths of mendacity, bullying, bullshitting, race-baiting, sexism, xenophobia, and unlimited, unrestrained spewage of puke that he puts out is just plain dangerous.  And I feel I must speak up both here and wherever I can.  And I will keep doing it.

I’m not going to repeat every story about him and his campaign; there are plenty of blogs and news sites that can provide you with that.  But I will write about him in the context of shaping our future and how we can and must do everything we can to keep him from ever being anything more than a colorful — if you think a Stephen King monster come to life is colorful — character in American history.

So I’m giving you fair notice: I’m going to be writing about him and the election a lot between now and November 8.  Feel free to skip over those posts and enjoy A Little Night Music or the Saturday Random Youtubery.  But we have a country to keep, and I’m going to do what I can to keep it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Obama’s Coattails

Barack Obama will not be on the ballot in November, but he still might have an influence on the outcome of the election.

His job approval numbers, which have rarely climbed out of the low 40’s thanks to the incessant pounding by the Republicans in Congress and the 24 hour daily drivel from Fox News and the organized Orcosphere, are now in the positive territory.  In fact, depending on who you listen to, they’re better than when he won re-election.

So what does that mean for Democrats?

Steve Benen:

…This might have some effect on historians’ perspective when the president’s legacy is being debated, but it’s understandable that much of the political world would be far more interested in the latest general-election polls, not the president’s latest level of support.

But don’t be too quick to dismiss the significance of Obama’s support. He won’t literally be on the ballot, but there’s little doubt the president’s standing will have a real impact on the public’s appetite – or lack thereof – for radical change in 2017 and beyond, and insiders in both parties will be keeping a close eye on Obama’s numbers in the coming months.

What’s more, this president will be the first two-term incumbent of the television era to aggressively hit the campaign trail during his last year in office, and the more popularity he enjoys, the greater the effects will be.

The L.A. Times reported a few months ago, “Obama’s approval rating now is almost identical to that of President Ronald Reagan in his final year in office – the last time the incumbent’s party won a third election in a row.”

For the record, according to Gallup, on this date in 1988, Reagan’s approval rating was 48%. As of yesterday, Obama was at 52%.

Every little bit helps.

“The Business We’ve Chosen”

It’s hard to imagine someone being in the real estate and casino business and not crossing paths or making connections with organized crime.  It’s part of the business.  So I suppose that’s why it’s no surprise that David Cay Johnston, an investigative reporter at Politico, would be able to track down Donald Trump’s connections with people who are, to quote Hyman Roth, in the business we’ve chosen.

In his signature book, The Art of the Deal, Donald Trump boasted that when he wanted to build a casino in Atlantic City, he persuaded the state attorney general to limit the investigation of his background to six months. Most potential owners were scrutinized for more than a year. Trump argued that he was “clean as a whistle”—young enough that he hadn’t had time to get into any sort of trouble. He got the sped-up background check, and eventually got the casino license.

But Trump was not clean as a whistle. Beginning three years earlier, he’d hired mobbed-up firms to erect Trump Tower and his Trump Plaza apartment building in Manhattan, including buying ostensibly overpriced concrete from a company controlled by mafia chieftains Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano. That story eventually came out in a federal investigation, which also concluded that in a construction industry saturated with mob influence, the Trump Plaza apartment building most likely benefited from connections to racketeering. Trump also failed to disclose that he was under investigation by a grand jury directed by the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, who wanted to learn how Trump obtained an option to buy the Penn Central railroad yards on the West Side of Manhattan.


No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks. Professor Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said the closest historical example would be President Warren G. Harding and Teapot Dome, a bribery and bid-rigging scandal in which the interior secretary went to prison. But even that has a key difference: Harding’s associates were corrupt but otherwise legitimate businessmen, not mobsters and drug dealers.

It would be really naive to think that we’ve never had a president with at least acquaintances with organized crime: think JFK and his Las Vegas Rat Pack buddies as well as his father’s business dealings going back to the Prohibition era.  But Mr. Trump’s deal-making and business past is on a whole other level.

Olive Branch

The DNC and the Clinton campaign are giving Bernie Sanders a nice peace offering at the Democratic convention.

Sen. Bernie Sanders was given unprecedented say over the Democratic Party platform Monday in a move party leaders hope will soothe a bitter split with backers of the longshot challenger to Hillary Clinton — and Sanders immediately used his new power to name a well-known advocate for Palestinian rights to help draft Democratic policy.

The senator from Vermont was allowed to choose nearly as many members of the Democratic Party platform-writing body as Clinton, who is expected to clinch the nomination next month. That influence resulted from an agreement worked out this month between the two candidates and party officials, the party announced Monday.

Clinton has picked six members of the 15-member committee that writes the platform, and Sanders has named five, the Democrats said Monday ahead of an expected announcement by the Democratic National Committee.

The math is based on the number of popular votes each has received to date, one official said. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the DNC, will name four. The candidates’ choices were selected in consultation with the campaigns and the DNC from larger slates of 12 and 10 suggested by the campaigns.

Everybody take a deep breath and peace out, okay?

Monday, May 23, 2016

It’s (Not) Only May

The Detroit Tigers are not quite in the cellar in the American League Central Division — thank you, Minnesota Twins — but today they have a .488 record and they’re 4.5 games behind the division-leading Chicago White Sox.

But hey, it’s only May and a lot of things can happen between now and the end of the season.  A lot of teams have come from behind to win and even go on and win the World Series.  The Tigers have good hitters, they’ve got a few good pitchers, and they could pull it off with some teamwork and good offense.  But right now they don’t look so hot.

The same can be said for the Democrats.  Compared to the GOP, they should be running the bases at a trot, and either one of their candidates should be leading the presumptuous Republican nominee by double digits purely based on qualifications and demeanor.  But right now they have problems.

As Josh Marshall points out, the Democrats are still battling it out over their nominee while the Republicans have already sealed their fate.  It’s normal for there to be tough numbers for the candidate who has yet to secure the nomination.

The first is that there’s a very real chance that Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States, a prospect which should genuinely scare people in a way that a conventional, even very conservative, Republican would not. The second is that Trump’s move into what is for now something like a dead heat is largely or perhaps entirely do to the fact that Republicans are consolidating around their nominee in advance of Democrats doing the same, something that seemed wildly improbable in March or even April.

Another way to look at this is that these results is that they should be deeply worrisome to you if you’re expecting that Hillary Clinton is going to win in a blow out in November. On the other hand, these numbers should be mildly encouraging if you recognize the powerful draw of partisan alignment (the fact that partisans of both parties, but especially Republicans, will fall in line behind almost anyone from their party) and the difficulties of either party winning a third presidential term in office.

The key is that even with what should be a momentary advantage (having Republicans unify while Democrats are still battling it out) Trump is still at best even and probably a couple points back. As long as Democrats can unify in the relatively near future, Hillary Clinton should get her own nudge forward in the polls, enough to give her a meaningful though not large advantage. As Philip Bump notes here, a whole party is currently running against Hillary Clinton. No one is yet running a campaign against Donald Trump.


One of the revealing nuggets of information from the recent NYT/CBS poll was that 72% of Bernie supporters say they plan to vote for Clinton against Trump. That compares to 60% of Hillary supporters who said the same thing about Obama in the same poll eight years ago. As we know, virtually all of Hillary’s supporters went on to vote for Obama. (People are often not the best predictors of their own actions.) We should expect pretty much the same this year. Indeed, this poll says they’re already substantially further along in that direction. But of course the difference between 90% and 95% and 99% of Sanders supporters voting for Clinton makes all the difference in the world. And whether Sanders lines up unambiguously and strongly behind Clinton will be key for that pretty small – but still critical – number who could go either way.

The difference between the Democrats and the Detroit Tigers — other than that fact that I’m pretty sure Bernie Sanders can’t hit a sinker — is that the fans really can’t do much to get their team to win other than cheer them on from the bleachers.  They can’t go out in the field and back up the outfield or pinch hit when Miggy has a slump.

But Democrats can do something.  They can go out and work the field by contacting their local party office and seeing what they can do to get the vote out, support local candidates, and if there’s a good Democrat running against an entrenched Republican member of Congress, at least stir up the dust.  If you can’t contribute monetarily, sign up to walk the precincts, get a yard sign, speak up to your friends and co-workers, write letters to editors, get involved.  Don’t expect the other person to do all the work because that’s what they’re thinking: someone else will do it.

Yeah, it’s only May.  But time flies, and in elections you can’t say, “Wait ’til next year.”

A Refugee’s Perspective

Via James Fallows, here’s a view of Campaign 2016 from someone who escaped the war in the Balkans for a better life in the U.S.

People think the United States is just casually letting refugees into the country at a rapid rate. You wanna come hang out in America?  Sure, come on over right now!  You need some shelter?  No problem, welcome! That’s not how it works.  That’s not how any of this works, but Donald Trump will have you thinking that.

So here is where it all comes full circle (as I’m sure you’ve been waiting for the connection).  I don’t know much about Donald Trump’s policies or political agenda and I’m not even going to pretend to know.  But I do I know enough abut Donald Trump.  Donald Trump is Slobodan Milosevic.  He is a rich, old, white man in power who uses his money and absurdly large media platform to instill fear, hate, and separation with the promise to fix it.  Make America great again.

People think things like war and genocide and concentration camps can’t happen in the U.S. We’re too evolved.  We’re too rich.  We’re too powerful.  We’re too something.  We’re too everything.  Look around.  Look at the wedge this man, this election, has created between people.  Look at the things he spews from his mouth, the fear he has instilled.  Look at the segregation. Look at the riots.  Look at the shootings.  Look. I mean really look.

Thoughts turn into words turn into actions turn into how did we get here?

My mother brought my brother and I to America for a better life.  Cliche, right?  No. It’s the truth. She wanted her kids to be raised somewhere they’d be treated like equals. Somewhere they could be themselves.  Somewhere they wouldn’t have to worry about the religion they choose to practice, their gender, their sexual orientation, or their ethnicity.  Somewhere they wouldn’t be punished or killed for simply just being.  Somewhere they wouldn’t be scared.

The Bosnian war ended over 20 years ago.  I am 28 years old, living in America now and I am scared.

So am I.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Reading

Not Acceptable — Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker of the danger of accepting Donald Trump.

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, / As, to be hated, needs but to be seen,” the poet Alexander Pope wrote, in lines that were once, as they said back in the day, imprinted on the mind of every schoolboy. Pope continued, “Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, / we first endure, then pity, then embrace.” The three-part process by which the gross becomes the taken for granted has been on matchlessly grim view this past week in the ascent of Donald Trump. First merely endured by those in the Republican Party, with pained grimaces and faint bleats of reluctance, bare toleration passed quickly over into blind, partisan allegiance—he’s going to be the nominee, after all, and so is our boy. Then a weird kind of pity arose, directed not so much at him (he supplies his own self-pity) as at his supporters, on the premise that their existence somehow makes him a champion for the dispossessed, although the evidence indicates that his followers are mostly stirred by familiar racial and cultural resentments, of which Trump has been a single-minded spokesperson.

Now for the embrace. One by one, people who had not merely resisted him before but called him by his proper name—who, until a month ago, were determined to oppose a man they rightly described as a con artist and a pathological liar—are suddenly getting on board. Columnists and magazines that a month ago were saying #NeverTrump are now vibrating with the frisson of his audacity, fawning over him or at least thrilling to his rising poll numbers and telling one another, “We can control him.’

No, you can’t. One can argue about whether to call him a fascist or an authoritarian populist or a grotesque joke made in a nightmare shared between Philip K. Dick and Tom Wolfe, but under any label Trump is a declared enemy of the liberal constitutional order of the United States—the order that has made it, in fact, the great and plural country that it already is. He announces his enmity to America by word and action every day. It is articulated in his insistence on the rightness of torture and the acceptable murder of noncombatants. It is self-evident in the threats he makes daily to destroy his political enemies, made only worse by the frivolity and transience of the tone of those threats. He makes his enmity to American values clear when he suggests that the Presidency holds absolute power, through which he will be able to end opposition—whether by questioning the ownership of newspapers or talking about changing libel laws or threatening to take away F.C.C. licenses. To say “Well, he would not really have the power to accomplish that” is to misunderstand the nature of thin-skinned authoritarians in power. They do not arrive in office and discover, as constitutionalists do, that their capabilities are more limited than they imagined. They arrive, and then make their power as large as they can.

And Trump announces his enmity in the choice of his companions. The Murdoch media conglomerate has been ordered to acquiesce; it’s no surprise that it has. But Trump’s other fellow-travellers include Roger Stone, the Republican political operative and dirty-tricks maven, while his venues have included the broadcasts of Alex Jones, a ranting conspiracy theorist who believes in a Globalist plot wherein “an alien force not of this world is attacking humanity”—not to mention Jones’s marketing of the theory that Michelle Obama is a transvestite who murdered Joan Rivers. These are not harmless oddballs Trump is flirting with. These are not members of the lunatic fringe. These are the lunatics.

Ted Cruz called Trump a pathological liar, the kind who does not know the difference between lies and truth. Whatever the clinical diagnosis, we do appear to be getting, in place of the once famous Big Lie of the nineteen-thirties, a sordid blizzard of lies. The Big Lie was fit for a time of processionals and nighttime rallies, and films that featured them. The blizzard of lies is made for Twitter and the quick hit of an impulse culture. Trump’s lies arrive with such rapidity that before one can be refuted a new one comes to take its place. It wasn’t his voice on that tape of pitiful self-promotion. O.K., it was—but he never mocked the handicapped reporter, he was merely imitating an obsequious one. The media eventually moves on, shrugging helplessly, to the next lie. Then the next lie, and the next. If the lies are bizarre enough and frequent enough, they provoke little more than a nervous giggle and a cry of “Well, guess he’s changed the rules!”

He’s not Hitler, as his wife recently said? Well, of course he isn’t. But then Hitler wasn’t Hitler—until he was. At each step of the way, the shock was tempered by acceptance. It depended on conservatives pretending he wasn’t so bad, compared with the Communists, while at the same time the militant left decided that their real enemies were the moderate leftists, who were really indistinguishable from the Nazis. The radical progressives decided that there was no difference between the democratic left and the totalitarian right and that an explosion of institutions was exactly the most thrilling thing imaginable.

The American Republic stands threatened by the first overtly anti-democratic leader of a large party in its modern history—an authoritarian with no grasp of history, no impulse control, and no apparent barriers on his will to power. The right thing to do, for everyone who believes in liberal democracy, is to gather around and work to defeat him on Election Day. Instead, we seem to be either engaged in parochial feuding or caught by habits of tribal hatred so ingrained that they have become impossible to escape even at moments of maximum danger. Bernie Sanders wouldn’t mind bringing down the Democratic Party to prevent it from surrendering to corporate forces—and yet he may be increasing the possibility of rule-by-billionaire.

There is a difference between major and minor issues, and between primary and secondary values. Many of us think that it would be terrible if the radical-revisionist reading of the Second Amendment created by the Heller decision eight years ago was kept in place in a constitutional court; many on the other side think it would be terrible if that other radical decision, Roe v. Wade, continued to be found to be compatible with the constitutional order. What we all should agree on is that the one thing worse would be to have no constitutional order left to argue about.

If Trump came to power, there is a decent chance that the American experiment would be over. This is not a hyperbolic prediction; it is not a hysterical prediction; it is simply a candid reading of what history tells us happens in countries with leaders like Trump. Countries don’t really recover from being taken over by unstable authoritarian nationalists of any political bent, left or right—not by Peróns or Castros or Putins or Francos or Lenins or fill in the blanks. The nation may survive, but the wound to hope and order will never fully heal. Ask Argentinians or Chileans or Venezuelans or Russians or Italians—or Germans. The national psyche never gets over learning that its institutions are that fragile and their ability to resist a dictator that weak. If he can rout the Republican Party in a week by having effectively secured the nomination, ask yourself what Trump could do with the American government if he had a mandate. Before those famous schoolroom lines, Pope made another observation, which was that even as you recognize that the world is a mixed-up place, you still can’t fool yourself about the difference between the acceptable and the unacceptable: “Fools! who from hence into the notion fall / That vice or virtue there is none at all,” he wrote. “Is there no black or white? / Ask your own heart, and nothing is so plain; / ’Tis to mistake them, costs the time and pain.” The pain of not seeing that black is black soon enough will be ours, and the time to recognize this is now.

Where You Go Matters — The New York Times on how a personal issue became a national cause.

The people of Palatine, Ill., a middle-class suburb of Chicago marked by generic strip malls and tidy cul-de-sacs, had not spent much time debating the thorny questions of transgender rights. But in late 2013, a transgender high school athlete, so intent on defending her privacy that she is known only as Student A, took on her school district so she could use the girls’ locker room.

After the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights ruled in her favor last fall, the two sides cut a deal: Student A could use the locker room and the school would install private changing areas. Some in the community denounced the arrangement; others joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which represented the girl, in declaring a victory for civil rights.

Now the whole nation is in a pitched battle over bathroom access, with the Obama administration ordering all public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice. Across the country, religious conservatives are rebelling. On Friday, lawmakers in Oklahoma became the latest group to protest, proposing one measure to effectively overturn the order, and another calling for President Obama to be impeached over it.

How a clash over bathrooms, an issue that appeared atop no national polls, became the next frontier in America’s fast-moving culture wars — and ultimately landed on the desk of the president — involves an array of players, some with law degrees, others still in high school.

The sweeping directive to public schools seemed to come out of nowhere. In fact, it was the product of years of study inside the government and a highly orchestrated campaign by advocates for gay and transgender people. Mindful of the role “Whites Only’’ bathrooms played in the civil rights battles of more than half a century ago, they have been maneuvering behind the scenes to press federal agencies, and ultimately Mr. Obama, to address a question that has roiled many school districts: Should those with differing anatomies share the same bathrooms?

The lobbying came to a head, according to people who were involved, in a hastily called April 1 meeting between top White House officials — led by Valerie Jarrett, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser and one of his closest confidantes — and national leaders of the gay and transgender rights movement. North Carolina had just become the first state to explicitly bar transgender people from using the bathrooms of their choice.

“Transgender students are under attack in this country,” said Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based advocacy group that is active on the issue, summing up the message he sought to convey to Ms. Jarrett that day. “They need their federal government to stand up for them.”

Ms. Jarrett and her team, he said, listened politely, but “did not reveal much,” including the fact that a legal directive on transgender rights that had been in the works for months was about to be released.

When — or precisely how — Mr. Obama personally weighed in is not clear; the White House would not provide specifics. But two days before that meeting, scores of advocacy groups sent Mr. Obama a private letter, appealing to his sense of history as he nears the end of his presidency, in which he has already advanced gay and transgender rights on multiple fronts.

“Too many students — including every single transgender, intersex, and gender-nonconforming student in North Carolina — will go to sleep tonight dreading the next school day,” the groups wrote, telling him that “your legacy will be defined by the tone you have set and the personal leadership you have shown on these issues.”

The dispute in Palatine came amid increasing confusion for school districts over how to handle questions about bathroom access for transgender students. Officials at the Department of Education said it had received hundreds of requests for guidance — so many that advocates for gay and transgender rights, frustrated by the Obama administration’s failure to issue specific policy guidelines, decided to act on their own.

In August, several groups seeking protection for transgender people — including the Human Rights Campaign, the National Education Association and the National Center for Lesbian Rights — issued a 68-page guide for schools, hoping to provide a blueprint for the White House.

At the Department of Education, Catherine E. Lhamon, 44, a former civil rights litigator who runs the agency’s Office of Civil Rights — and has made aggressive use of a federal nondiscrimination law known as Title IX — was taking the lead. The department’s ruling in favor of Student A in November was the first time it had found any school district in violation of civil rights over transgender issues.

For Student A, the federal intervention has been life changing. Her mother, who requested anonymity to protect the privacy of her daughter, said she was close to finishing her junior year and had just gone to the prom with a group of friends. (She wore a “nice, expensive dress” with a lot of sparkles, her mother said.) Student A is starting to think about which college she might attend.

“She’s in her own teenaged world right now,” her mother said.

The ruling in Palatine reverberated across the Midwest. In the South Dakota Legislature, Republicans were so alarmed by the situation in Palatine that, in February, they passed a measure restricting bathroom access for transgender students — similar to the one that later became law in North Carolina. Opponents sent transgender South Dakotans to meet with Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, and they believe that influenced his veto of the bill.

Among the visitors was Kendra Heathscott, who was 10 when she first met Mr. Daugaard, then the executive director of a social services organization that treats children with behavioral problems. In his office to lobby against the bathroom measure, she reintroduced herself. “He remembered me as a little boy,” she said.

In Wisconsin last year, another Republican-sponsored bathroom bill began to work its way through the Legislature, but was beaten back by transgender rights activists, many of them teenagers.

Remember 2008 — Tim Murphy at Mother Jones reminds us of the intense Democratic primary race eight years ago and how that turned out.

After last weekend’s chaotic Nevada Democratic convention, where supporters of Bernie Sanders tossed chairs and later sent death threats to the state party chair, leading Democrats called on the Vermont senator and his supporters to settle down. They wanted Sanders backers to quit complaining about a “rigged” nominating process and to lay off the threat to take the fight to the July convention if—as looks almost certain—Hillary Clinton locks up the nomination next month. At the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky chastised the Vermont senator for not rebuking his supporters and asked if Sanders “wants to destroy the Democratic party.” He depicted Sanders and his wife, Jane Sanders, as Thelma and Louise, driving off a cliff.

But, in a way, the party has been at this precipice before. The fretting over what a Sanders schism might mean for the party’s chances in November against Donald Trump is not without justification. And many Democrats had cause to freak out over a New York Times article that reported that Team Sanders was bent on causing Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, much harm in the weeks up to and at the convention. But Sanders’ decision to push for the Democratic nomination all the way to the convention is not unprecedented. This is sort of what happened the last time there was a Democratic presidential primary, when Clinton was in the never-give-up role.

The comparison isn’t perfect. At this point in 2008, Clinton, running second to then-Sen. Barack Obama, had a statistically better shot at the nomination than Sanders does now. The gap in pledged delegates was much smaller, and there was an unsettled issue of how harshly Michigan and Florida would be penalized for holding early primaries against the party’s orders. (Clinton won both states, Obama had chosen not compete, and it was unclear how many delegates each state would have at the convention.) Still, Clinton was a long shot, and Obama backers wanted her to go away quietly, or at least to quit attacking the likely nominee. She and her supporters chose the opposite course, pitching superdelegates to switch sides based on a racially tinged argument that Clinton would fare better than Obama in the general election.

Here are some flashbacks to that tense period in 2008:

May 8: After narrowly beating Obama in Indiana, Clinton says, “Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again.” This was an argument that superdelegates should support her because her black opponent wouldn’t be able to win white voters in November.

May 9: Sixteen pro-Clinton House members send a letter to superdelegates touting Clinton’s “ability to connect with voters we must deliver in the fall, including blue collar Democrats who can sway this election as they have in the past.”

Mid-May: Bill Clinton frantically tries to convince superdelegates to switch their allegiances. According to Game Change, “Clinton’s message, sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly, was that the country wasn’t ready to elect an African American president.”

May 23: Hillary Clinton tells the Sioux Falls Argus Leader that she’s staying in the race because anything can happen. “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California,” she says. She pledges to fight until the convention and challenges Obama to more debates. Obama supporters howl at Clinton’s fear tactic.

May 31: The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee meets to settle the fate of the Michigan and Florida delegates. It decides to cut both states’ delegations in half—a death blow to Clinton’s chances. Angry Clinton supporters outside the meeting tell the Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein that an ex-Senate majority leader (Tom Daschle) had “rigged” the South Dakota primary, that Obama was in the pocket of a billionaire megadonor (George Soros), and that his base of supporters was little more than an “anti-woman cult.”

Early June: Rumors circulate of a secret video, known as the “whitey tape,” in which Michelle Obama supposedly shares a stage with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and denounces white people. According to Game Change, the Clinton campaign clung to the video as its last best hope: “[Top Clinton aide Sidney] Blumenthal was obsessed with the ‘whitey tape,’ and so were the Clintons, who not only believed that it existed but felt that there was a chance it might emerge in time to save Hillary. ‘They’ve got a tape, they’ve got a tape,’ she told her aides excitedly.”

There was no tape, and Clinton dropped out of the race on June 4, shortly after the last Democratic primary. On June 27, she and Obama held their first joint appearance together, in Unity, New Hampshire.

Sanders may yet pursue a different course. (His aides are talking about trying to transform the Democratic Party and its rules.) But for now, his decision to stay in the race and keep the pressure on the front-runner is not extraordinary. It’s déjà vu.

Doonesbury — Found money.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Two Governors

Two moderate Republican former governors are teaming up with the Libertarian Party to offer an alternative ticket to the White House.

Former Massachusetts governor William F. Weld will announce Thursday that he is running for vice president, rejecting the Republican Party of which he has long been a member in favor of the Libertarian Party ticket of another former GOP governor, Gary Johnson of New Mexico, campaign aides to Johnson said Wednesday.

The two former chief executives are expected to announce their partnership Thursday in New York City, the Johnson aides said, the latest sign of the national Republican Party’s struggle to come to grips with the party’s takeover by presumptive nominee Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Johnson was the governor of New Mexico when I lived there in the 90’s.  He was fairly innocuous; his claim to fame was that he was in favor of legalizing marijuana.  He made a run for the White House on the Libertarian ticket in 2012.

Mr. Weld was the governor of Massachusetts in the 1990’s.  He left that job when he was named ambassador to Mexico by President Bill Clinton but never made it past confirmation after being blocked by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC).

Mr. Weld is already throwing punches at Donald Trump.

In his first interview since accepting an invitation to be the running mate of former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico, Mr. Weld assailed Donald J. Trump over his call to round up and deport the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.

“I can hear the glass crunching on Kristallnacht in the ghettos of Warsaw and Vienna when I hear that, honest,” Mr. Weld said Thursday.

I don’t expect their ticket to be a game-changer.

Yes, It Can Happen Here — Part II

Back in December I wrote:

In 1935 Sinclair Lewis wrote a novel titled It Can’t Happen Here about  Senator Buzz Windrip who rose to popularity and became President of the United States by running on a ticket of social and economic reforms and a return to patriotism and traditional values.  After he’s elected he imposes a plutocratic/fascist regime with the help of a paramilitary force called the Minute Men, much like Hitler’s SS.  The title of the book comes from the idea that such an event can’t really happen in America.

Yes, it can.  We’ve gotten close on several occasions, most recently in the mid-1930’s when, out of the depths of the Depression and in the fear of Bolshevism in Europe, Huey Long — on whom Lewis based Windrip — came very close to running for president in 1936 only to be stopped by an assassin in 1935.  And now Donald Trump is doing it again, and if yesterday’s declaration of banning the admission of “every” Muslim, including American citizens coming back from a trip to Toronto, is any indication, he’s just getting warmed up.  He’s already demonized blacks, veterans, the disabled, women, and anyone who raises an objection to his rhetoric, so of course picking on the religion that is being portrayed as the enemy — another pickup from you-know-who — is the next step.

Robert Kagan at the Washington Post continues the thought.

…To understand how such movements take over a democracy, one only has to watch the Republican Party today. These movements play on all the fears, vanities, ambitions and insecurities that make up the human psyche. In democracies, at least for politicians, the only thing that matters is what the voters say they want — vox populi vox Dei. A mass political movement is thus a powerful and, to those who would oppose it, frightening weapon. When controlled and directed by a single leader, it can be aimed at whomever the leader chooses. If someone criticizes or opposes the leader, it doesn’t matter how popular or admired that person has been. He might be a famous war hero, but if the leader derides and ridicules his heroism, the followers laugh and jeer. He might be the highest-ranking elected guardian of the party’s most cherished principles. But if he hesitates to support the leader, he faces political death.

In such an environment, every political figure confronts a stark choice: Get right with the leader and his mass following or get run over. The human race in such circumstances breaks down into predictable categories — and democratic politicians are the most predictable. There are those whose ambition leads them to jump on the bandwagon. They praise the leader’s incoherent speeches as the beginning of wisdom, hoping he will reward them with a plum post in the new order. There are those who merely hope to survive. Their consciences won’t let them curry favor so shamelessly, so they mumble their pledges of support, like the victims in Stalin’s show trials, perhaps not realizing that the leader and his followers will get them in the end anyway.


This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.

Don’t say we haven’t been warned, and based on the response by some Trump supporters, it needs to be taken seriously.

Short Takes

Possible terror link to Egyptair crash.

Oklahoma passes bill making abortion a felony.

House GOP reverses course on LGBT amendment; tempers flare.

GOP senator apologized to Muslims on his deathbed.

Clinton leads Sanders and Trump in NY Times/CBS poll.

The Tigers had the night off.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Bad Blood

I really hope Steve M is wrong about this.

…I’m predicting that Bernie Sanders won’t endorse Hillary Clinton. He’s going to fight to the last primary, then he’s going to try to twist superdelegates’ arms, then he and his people are going to demand a platform that resolves every disagreement between himself and Clinton in his favor. And when the platform fails to repudiate the party’s nominee on every point of disagreement, he’s going to walk. At best, he’ll offer a pro forma endorsement, maybe not until well after the convention is over, and then he’ll sit out the general election campaign. Because this is personal for him. He believes the Democrats won’t win if he’s not the nominee, so he does no damage by withdrawing from the fray. It’s all the fault of Clinton and the party establishment if she loses.

She is a weak candidate, and the party did try to grease the skids for her, but Barack Obama faced the same situation in 2008 and just put his head down and overcame the odds. And the ideas and voters Sanders represents should be in the tent — but at this point I think giving vent to gut-level anger means more to Sanders than either a Democratic victory in November or a partial win for his movement, with the possibility of greater victories to follow. He thinks he’s been screwed. And someone has to pay.

It’s been both nauseating and amusing to watch the Republicans who dismissed, trashed, and called Donald Trump enough names that Democratic super-PACs are building ads around them, but now that he’s got the nomination, they’re at least going through the motions of uniting behind him and making sham attempts to be sincere about it.  Of course it’s all bullshit, but it plays well on Sunday morning TV and they can say, however awkwardly, that they’re all together now.

Mr. Sanders says over and over that it’s not about him and the reason he’s staying in the race is to keep his agenda and his ideas in the mix of the party.  But the more he says it, he sounds more aggrieved on a personal level.

Someone who truly cares about the future of both the country and the political movement he stands for would at some point recognize when he’s lost the battle and deal with it without inflicting further collateral damage.

Rachel Maddow says it’s always been like this; acrimony between primary candidates is nothing new.  That may easily be, but the stakes this time are a lot higher than before.

Short Takes

Egyptair flight from Paris to Cairo disappears from radar over Mediterranean.

One of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram escaped after two years of captivity.

The Labor Department announced new rules that will allow millions of workers to collect overtime.

Mudslides in Sri Lanka displaced thousands of people.

A federal judge in Kansas ruled against the state’s strict voter registration rules.

Donald Trump listed the eleven people who will never serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Tigers completed the sweep of the Twins 6-3.

Happy birthday, Mom.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

As Always

The first election I remember was the 1960 race between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy.  I was eight, so I really didn’t grasp the political issues; all I knew was back then my parents and their friends were Republicans and JFK wasn’t worthy of being president.  (I’m told that my parents changed parties shortly thereafter and haven’t regretted it.)  The first election I actually volunteered for was in 1968; Hubert Humphrey vs. Richard Nixon.

Looking back over the last fifty-plus years, I can’t think of a single election where there hasn’t been some kind of buyers’ remorse about either candidate voiced by pundits and some polls basically boiling down to “these are the best we can come up with?” and leaving the election up to a choice of “the lesser of two evils.”

People are entitled to their sour grapes, but when you’re running an election in a nominal democracy with as many different ways to choose candidates — primaries, party conventions, straw polls, caucuses, debates, rallies — as there are states and PAC’s, this is the way we’ve chosen presidents for nigh on 150 years and no candidate of either party has ever emerged unwrinkled and unsullied.  The upside is that if you can make it through that gauntlet, there’s something to be said for stamina and a willingness to be humiliated that should hold you in good stead for the office.  (Unless you’re a racist, sexist, xenophobic megalomaniac with fascistic tendencies.  Then all bets are off.)

No candidate of either party is perfect, ever; there are always going to be a loser and their disappointed supporters who vow to never support the eventual nominee.  And yet they do — or they should — if they want what they believe in to win regardless of who is the name on the their party’s ticket.

Or, to put it bluntly, get over yourself and think about what it would be like if the other guys win.

Wild Cards In Nevada

Things got ugly in Las Vegas last weekend.

What ensued at the Paris Hotel the following day was anything but honest and dignified and everything but respectful and constructive as dozens of Sanders delegates exploded in anger at what they called an anti-democratic attempt to steal the convention from them.

By the time hotel security shut down the event late Saturday evening, the Sanders delegates had hurled ugly epithets at Clinton surrogate Barbara Boxer, and used a sign to block her from being shown on big screens; screamed vulgarities at state Chairwoman Roberta Lange, who later received death threats after Sanders sympathizers posted her cell phone number and home address online; and threw chairs at the stage as they rushed forward to try to take control of a convention they had lost, just as Sanders was defeated at the Feb. 20 by Clinton in in a decisive result.

The next day, a group of Sanders supporters protested at the state Democratic Party headquarters and scrawled messages (‘Murdered democracy” and “You are scum” among them) on the outside walls and nearby sidewalks.

C’mon, Nevada Democrats: rioting, making threats, and petulant statements from a candidate about being mistreated is the Republicans’ shtick.